In a People’s Industry, the Biggest Challenge is Finding the People

On a recent visit to Goa, staying at an iconic star property, one came across multiple young staff on training, on very meagre stipends, with canteen food that appeared like dole, I was sad and disappointed. Is the industry only looking after the top end of its staff? As one looks around, even among the big chains, often there is a sharp difference in service quality in smaller towns and properties. It’s the crying need of the hour. Hotels must be seen as a preferred industry to work in, which was once the case. Today’s youth is not longer looking at the glamour, the sheen, but the duty hours, the pay check at the end of the month, and advancement in careers.

One big change in recent years has been the birth of ISH, founded by Dilip Puri, formerly a Starwood stalwart, and an Oberoi alumni. He has spent the last few years understanding the needs and providing international level education for young aspiring students. But his numbers are small, we perhaps need a hundred of such institutions across the country.

In this brief interview with Dilip, we touch upon some of the questions, perhaps the fringes of the problem. A more concerted effort is required by both government agencies as well as the industry itself.

Here are the highlights of this brief exchange:

Primary employment challenges faced by the Indian hospitality industry

Despite exceptional growth, the Indian hospitality industry is facing multiple employment challenges. These include a shortage of skilled professionals, high employee turnover rates, and the absence of standardized training programs. Hospitality professionals are being poached not by competitors, but by different sectors.
Furthermore, there is a notion that the hospitality sector offers low-paying and menial employment options, which makes it challenging for employers to draw and retain talent. These prevailing challenges significantly impact the industry’s ability to address the booming demand for hospitality services in the country.
A larger number of students graduating from Hospitality schools are finding better employment opportunities with other sectors such as retail, real estate, e-commerce, start-ups.

Gaps between hospitality education and jobs in the industry, and how can these gaps be filled?

One of the primary gaps between hospitality education and jobs in the industry is the absence of practical training. While hospitality courses deliver theoretical knowledge, they must train students for the real-world challenges they will encounter in the industry. To bridge this gap, extensive collaborations between hospitality education institutions and industry partners such as renowned hotel chains are required to deliver hands-on experience and internships. A better experience during internships will help retain young people within the industry. This will not only allow students to garner practical experience but also allow them to network with potential employers and enhance their chances of securing employment after graduation.
Another crucial gap is the disparity between the skills instructed in hospitality education institutions and the skills required by employers. To address this, hospitality schools should consistently update their curriculum and teaching methodologies to ensure that graduates have the most in-demand skills and knowledge.

Strategies that the hospitality industry can adopt to attract and retain skilled workers in India?

There are several measures that can be adopted to attract and retain talent, including offering attractive salaries and perks such as health insurance, paid leaves for work-life balance and other incentives.The sector should also emphasise offering opportunities for career advancement via training and development programs. In addition, a positive work culture can be fostered by recognising and rewarding the professionals for their hard work and accomplishments.And most importantly, deliver an exceptional internship experience so that these students are enthused and motivated to join the industry.

The future of employment in the hospitality

Despite the challenges, the future of employment in the hospitality industry is promising. With an unprecedented demand for personalised experiences and high-quality services, there is a growing demand for skilled professionals across hotels, restaurants, resorts etc.However, with the rapid integration of emerging technologies like AI coupled with other trends, it is essential for hospitality students and professionals to consistently learn and upskill to stay relevant and thrive in this promising sector. With India poised to emerge as the growth engine of the world, the hospitality sector will witness multi-fold growth in the coming years.

Long-term implications of employment challenges

If the industry does not work towards changing the perception of being an over worked and underpaid sector, it will continue to detract young students to opt for hospitality as a career. This will have a direct impact on product and service quality in the future, given the fast-paced growth in hotel development and openings.

Other aspects regarding employment

The hospitality sector is one of the most dynamic industries in the globe, and aspirants should be prepared to navigate its opportunities and complexities. Moreover, a positive attitude, strong work ethic and excellent soft skills can go a long way in ensuring a rewarding career in this industry. It is also essential for hospitality aspirants to enrol in a prominent hospitality education institution to acquire the right skills and knowledge and benefit from its global network and legacy.
Furthermore, gaining practical experience via internships is crucial for aspiring professionals to excel in this domain.

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